Trying to Create Boundaries

I feel l have learned so much about ADD since last summer when a counselor first suggested it might be a fit for my dh. As many others, I associated ADD with hyperactive kids. Inattentive subset fits my dh to a T. When I subsequently read Melissa's book I felt like I was reading my memoir. Our youngest son, now eight, fits the description as well. I homeschool him and learning about ADD has changed how I handle his symptoms -- his distractibility; extreme emotional responses unwarranted for the situation; impulsivity; etc.

My son's behavior has cost me a dear friendship, actually: my friend took care of my (three) kids for a week and in retrospect I think she thought she could "fix" my youngest with what she viewed as a lack of discipline. The week ended up being hell for her, not surprisingly. I felt really bad because I knew she meant well, and because I had only just begun to learn about ADHD and what it all meant, so I had not prepared her or even understood what I was leaving in her hands or I would never have done it. She had offered to take the kids that week and I let her, ironically, because I was desperate to spend time with my husband and try to salvage and even (silly me) strengthen our marriage. The week in that regard ended up being a waste of time so I should not have bothered. I had never, ever had a week with my husband away from the kids before. (We never even had a honeymoon. Oh, and we did everything in the right order, just very fast.) And now I have decided that I never will again. I can never leave my youngest son again and go away like that. But this post isn't about my youngest son. 

My dh will do nothing about getting assessed or otherwise exploring a diagnosis in general. This won't surprise most of you reading this. He says he will, but right now he's too overwhelmed with work to do anything else. And no, he doesn't see the irony. He is active duty military and right now he is going to school full-time. As in, going to school is his job. The assigned papers and finals are totally stressing him out and he can think about nothing else. Now I understand this as the "hyper focus" and recognize it for what it's worth. Right now it's school, but it's always been something. I used to take it so personally. I wish I could say that I am helping him in any way I can, because I do feel compassion for his situation. But honestly, I am just exhausted and numb. I still get angry, but mostly I have gained control of that response and I'm just left feeling extremely sad and bereft. I have my hands full with homeschooling three kids and taking care of everything. else: finances; housework; schedules; meal planning; shopping; cooking; chauffeuring... Moms everywhere know the drill. Honestly, when he's not home at all things are easier -- at least I'm not perpetually disappointed by the things he isn't doing. In fact, the other day he claimed that at least he took care of his own dishes and I actually laughed out loud. After asking if he was serious (he's regularly sarcastic) I calmly stated that he took care of his own dishes, at best, 50% of the time. He was clearly taken aback: I had not called him out on anything like that for so long. And without any anger from me, his normal defenses seemed to fail him.  

I can tell he struggles with taking this whole ADD thing as a cop out on my part or a way of placing the blame of all our problems on him. He wants to blame my anger over the last 18 years for the state of our marriage today. And I let him blame me, for years and years. I struggled and strived to get a grip on my anger. I didn't understand it either. I had no idea where it came from. That had never been me before! But even though I no longer have outbursts of anger over every disappointment he still blames my anger for his lack of ... anything. I just want to give our teenage son as an example. And even though such a short (ahem) synopsis can never paint a complete picture, I am looking for any insight or encouragement anyone might be able to give. 

Dh will not support me in front of our son. Will. Not. As in, I've asked him to, very directly. "I need you to verbally support me in front of our son." He says that he talks to him later, when I'm not around. Why? Why not in the moment? When I need him? To show our son that his dad is on his mom's side? I get all kinds of answers for that: I don't know what to say in the heat of the moment; I can't support you when you're 'like that'. I've tried to explain to him that, I get 'like that' because our son is speaking to me in a disrespectful way, and it's my job not to ignore it.

I've come to learn from reading Melissa's book, and this forum, that dh does not have a normal gauge of conflict; as in, he truly believes that all conflict is bad. When I am engaging in conflict, he sees me as being overly emotional. He has asked me before, "Don't you think you have a problem with emotional regulation?" I've tried taking all emotion out of my voice when I make requests, no joke. I'm still ignored. I write things down. I use silly tones. I ask nicely. Again and again. He honestly thinks I've always just blown up out of nowhere. He just sees himself as a guy who's not perfect but he's trying his best so that should count for something and I'm just making a big deal out of nothing and I just need to relax. 

I am in full-fledged mourning here, but still not out of denial. I just can't quite believe I will never have the kind of relationship that I believe can be possible. Hope springs eternal and all that. I have stayed with him because of hope, but I increasingly feel more and more foolish for that hope. I am currently crossing over from hope into staying because leaving simply seems ridiculous: things aren't that bad. He's been a good provider. He's a good dad. In fact, in one of our (many) worst moments, years ago, in one of the two or three times (in 18 years) he's sincerely acknowledged that he's had a part in all this, he divulged that when he was young he swore that he would be such a better dad than his ever was. But he never thought about what kind of husband he would be. 

I am trying to be more cognizant of my own shortcomings and weaknesses so as to take control of what I can actually control. How this played out recently was for a weekend trip that the whole family was supposed to go on. Our teenage son had a sporting event in another city a few hours away, so I planned for us all to spend a couple of nights in a hotel and to visit a museum in the area over the same weekend.

The day we were going to leave, I admonished our teenage for not taking care of his dishes, which he regularly blows off. (In this case, his dishes were still out from the night before. I had reminded him before I went to bed to take care of them. All of this is a regular occurrence. Yes, I've tried everything.) (And no, FWIW, I don't think he's ADD.) Dh was standing there and said nothing, except to make a joke, which is typical. It's like he thinks he needs to lighten the mood. Keeping in mind that all I was doing was telling our son to do the dishes: I wasn't screaming or yelling or otherwise frothing at the mouth.

So I recognized in myself that I was feeling very upset about this -- I want to say, even though it happens all the time, but really, it's because it happens all the time. I admonish our son; dh says nothing. (Or makes an unrelated joke.) So I excuse myself before I get even madder which is what dh is waiting for, and it occurs to me: I have choices here. 

So I tell dh that I don't think we all should go away for the weekend. It would be better if he and our teenage son went alone. If ds and I were going to butt heads and dh wasn't going to get involved, it was going to upset me and I didn't think I could handle it. 

Dh is a man of few words, but I think it's safe to surmise that he thought I was being extreme. And I struggled with feeling guilty. And, of course, feeling disappointed. And feeling like I was creating a situation out of nothing. I can cite many experiences when I have felt overwhelmed with circumstances (like with trips) and under supported when it came to our son, but this is the first time I took steps to try to prevent a bad scenario from happening instead of being cajoled into going and doing my best to bite my tongue (and often failing).

I'm writing this as they're still gone, actually. But there will be no talking about it when they're back, I'm afraid. At least, not in a productive manner. Dh feels justified in not supporting me in front of our son. He has said this in words, so I know I'm not just trying to read his mind. (And I'm trying to catch myself when I do that and stop, but it's so hard, because he truly doesn't initiate serious discussions with me, ever. And I can't tell you how many times I have engaged him in conversation, paused significantly, for minutes, to allow him time to respond, and have gotten nothing in return but silence.) I can't seem to go indefinitely without getting upset about his lack of verbal support. I've tried all manner of ways to relate to our son in a healthy way, but whenever I get the least bit emotional, to include sounding impatient, or annoyed, or even a little grumpy, then I lose all credibility. And ds knows from experience that I'm on my own. I don't blame him at all, actually. His parents are clearly divided; it's only natural for a teenager to try to get away with doing as little as possible and to let his dad's silence justify how he talks to and otherwise ignores his mother. 

How my teenager relates to me is just one symptom of what is just an unhealthy marriage with zero emotional connection and support. At times, I have wondered if it wouldn't be better for my kids to not have a marriage modeled for them at all rather than to have them learning unconsciously from the one we have. Whenever I try to talk to someone about the struggles with my son, it's always, "Well, that's teenagers for you." And I struggle to share things about my husband because I feel so guilty and ashamed of it for some reason, and how could I have let it go on like this for so long? I know I have my part in it with how I have reacted in anger over the years. But just like others I have read in this forum, even when I changed my behavior and responses, nothing else changed. If I don't bring something up, then we never talk about it. It should almost be nice, really, because he never calls me on anything -- or even seems to notice anything, actually. If he has a problem, I never hear anything about it unless I go to him about something first. And then everything gets turned around to be about how awful I am. "Why don't you come and talk to me? Why do you wait for me to come talk to you?" If I had a dollar for every time I've asked him that. If I could just be okay with how things are and never have to talk to him...

If it weren't for all the difficult moves as a military family and always having to start over and forge new local friendships and support, I could see just leading parallel lives. As it is, we're supposed to move again this year -- for the 11th time -- and I'm scared to death. I'm tired and I know I won't be able to do everything and take care of all the details and keep all my emotions at bay all of the time. And yes, I've tried to talk to him about my fears and concerns and that I need his support. I'm still waiting for a sincere response.